Thursday, February 4, 2010

Who's hot when you're seven?

So I’m sitting at the table reading Ahab’s Wife. I picked it up at the library on a whim and wow, Mamas, what a beautifully written book! It’s left me on the verge of tears several times today. Not at all what I expected. I’d highly recommend it, especially during a blizzard, which happens to be the case right now.

Anyhoo, I’m at the table reading and my son is watching “Johnny Test,” a Cartoon Network show. It’s a pretty basic boy-style cartoon. Johnny is a kid who has adventures with his talking dog and his two genius sisters who get in him into trouble all the time with their science experiments. Whatever.

Of course with my highly developed mother-hearing, I’m reading my book and listening to the TV at the same time when it strikes me… within just a few minutes of programming, the kid in the cartoon has referred to one of his classmates as being “hot” about 3 times. What? Oh really? Time to put the book down and see what my kid is watching.

Why is it that a show that is rated TV-Y7 (suitable for kids ages 7 and up) has to include numerous references to kissing, hotness (of both males and females) and various levels of dating? I’m looking at my son, who is staring blindly at the television and I'm wondering, what the hell does he know about kissing, dating and looking hot?

Sure he probably knows what it means in context, but these are not activities or references that have anything to do with his 7-year old lifestyle. So why are they so prominent in the shows that are geared toward his age group?

I’ve noticed this on other shows, also. The references generally don’t add anything to the plot. They’re just sprinkled around for …what?... shock-value? cool-factor? Give me a break.

So of course, in true Reign style, I’ve got some helpful references to help parents navigate the 24/7 barrage of children’s programming. Use them to get the scoop on the shows that are being marketed to our kids and to explore the impact of this type of media on developing minds.

True Child --Imagines a world where boys and girls are free from stereotypes so they can learn, grow, and reach their full potential. They offer in depth reviews of popular kids shows.

CCFC -- The only national organization devoted to limiting the impact of commercial culture on children.

CMCH -- Created by the Center of Media and Child Health, this website strives to educate and empower people to create and consume media in ways that optimize children’s health and development.

Ask the Mediatrician -- A forum where science-based answers and practical solutions are provided for parents and caregivers. The really indepth Q&A will give you lots to think about.

Common Sense Media -- Dedicated to improving the media and entertainment lives of kids and families. CSM offers unique reviews of popular shows from both parents' and kids' perspectives.

Shaping Youth Created by former ad exec Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth is an invaluable resource that explores how marketing and media impacts kids.

Yeah, it would be easier to just turn off the TV, but these are nice, too. And they're a good way to stay informed, so enjoy.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Looking for a full-time job is a sucky, soul-crushing full-time job!

It's been over 2 months since I've managed this blog space. I haven't looked at it. I haven't planned any posts or giveaways. I haven't even been checking the replies. "Why" you ask? Well let me start off by stating one terrifying fact that has smacked me in the face multiple times in the past 2 months...

Looking for a full-time job IS a full-time job!

It's also energy-sucking, stressful, ego-smashing, depressing, and soul-crushing. It's enough to send the strongest, most capable worker scuttling off to a lonesome corner to curl up in the fetal position and stuff Ben & Jerry's in their face. It sucks! And I'm not usually one to complain... seriously... ask my friends.

That being said, there comes a time when a girl has to pull herself up by her bra strap and take a hard look at the ashy, hair-uncombed, crusty-eyed face in the mirror and woman-up. And here's the lesson... feeling sorry for oneself not only doesn't do any good, but it's a mean, ugly cycle. You get down one day and the next day and the next and pretty soon you can't be bothered with any of the days. It's a scary place. Don't go there. And THAT being said, here are

Mommy B's Top 5 Tips for staying sane, presentable and in non-suicidal spirits during this sucky time of few jobs and fewer prospects

1. DO NOT ... I repeat ... DO NOT sit on the computer all day!
Yes, it's tempting to stay online all day looking and applying for jobs, but DON'T! Before you know it, it's 5 o'clock and you're still sitting at the computer in your pajamas and woolly socks with coffee-stains all over your shirt wondering where the day went because now it's dark outside.

2. Get some exercise!
You know the drill: endorphins, more energy, better attitude, blah blappity blah... who cares! All you need to know is that it feels good to burn off some of that energy that you're just wasting by sitting at home, worrying about finding work. DO IT!

3. Get some air!
Go for a walk. Mail a letter. Run some errands. Hit the mall -- of course you can't buy anything, but it's a nice change of scenery isn't it? Getting out of that house for a little while breaks up the day and makes you feel like you accomplished something. And it will do you some good to catch some fresh air and sunshine.

4. Keep some semblance of a regular routine!
When you're accustomed to getting up and going to work every day and then suddenly you don't have to do that anymore, it's not an easy transition. Yeah, it's nice to think that you'll be able to sleep in, take it easy, and catch up on your stories, but c'mon. Really? ... Really? Who's doing that and actually feeling good about it? Show of hands? ... I thought so. Once that first bill comes in after the severance is gone, you're not gonna to feel so relax-y. Create a routine for yourself... it will keep you from going insane. Mine is:
  1. Get kids off to school.
  2. Go to gym.
  3. Run errands.
  4. Look for job.
  5. Pick up youngest from bus.
  6. Get dinner started.
Of course it varies from day to day (and I usually find myself online looking for work again after the kids go to bed) but it's a base I try to stick with. It's keeping me sane so I won't mess with it.

5. Keep your head up!
Things will get better (I truly believe that). Don't lose touch with your old work friends. Most are probably in the same boat and you can share advice and stories. Go to lunch (a cheap one). Have a drink once in a while (a cheap one) and try to find the humor in this situation (like how is anyone supposed to survive on a $300 weekly unemployment check in the metro NY area? HHHAHHAHAHAHAHA!!!) because if we don't laugh we'll all certainly be crying. Hard!

This post was much longer than I intended. I just wanted to drop a note as to why I haven't posted in 2 months, but look at that! It turned into so much more! And it's made me realize how much I miss blogging. I'll do my best to start getting our standard Reign fodder up asap. There's way to much going on in the world of girl empowerment to ignore.

See you soon and Happy New Year!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

5 Tips for Raising Media-Savvy Kids!

It's like talking to a brick wall sometimes. Or having a conversation with one of the squirrels in my yard. I can chase down, corner and talk the ears off of as many people as I want, but if the message about how much of an impact media has on kids isn't getting through to the right people, it's absolutely pointless.

I can explain how all media is educational . Whether it's good or bad, kids are picking up cues and learning from it.

I can talk about how dozens of recent studies have linked excessive media consumption to negative and downright scary behavior in adolescents.

I can even, show articles, statistics and informed blog posts that exemplify the growing worry that many people have about the impact of media on kids.

But if parents aren’t hearing me and making changes at home, then it's all just me hollering and waving around papers like some nut on uppers. So to give all of us smart Mamas (and Daddies) a hand in countering media influences, here are...

5 Tips for Raising Media-Savvy Kids

Of course they enjoy their multiple screen-time, but the simple fact is, you pay the doggone bills so technically, it's all yours. There's nothing wrong with setting time limits on television, computer, video games, and phone usage. Setting boundaries on the media that kids are using is even easier since most television and Internet service providers have parental blocks that can be turned when needed.

There's no better way to get a feel for what kids are watching, browsing and listening to than to try it out yourself. Get your Tweet, FB, IM, YouTube, "Degrassi," "106 & Park," and "Vampire Diaries" on ... and find out what all the kid-buzz is about! Then see what experts and other parents are saying about them at rating and review sites like Common Sense Media

Several studies confirm that media literacy programs can “immunize” teens against harmful media effects, but first, we need to get "literate" ourselves! Organizations like the Center on Media and Child Health offer articles, tips, research and Q&A to help parents become more media savvy.

Encourage kids to take a deeper look at what they’re seeing in the media and question whether or not it's really OK. For example: Why is it so common to see images of half naked women in music videos while the men are are fully clothed? What does that say about the women? What does it say about the men?

The key to this is to engage in the media together. It's natural for us to want to turn the channel or flip the station when something inappropriate comes on, but many times, this type of content can be used to get kids thinking about the messages being conveyed.

Giving kids the tools to create their own media like counter-ads, blogs, music, web pages and videos is a great way to teach them how media is created. When they have an understanding of how messages are chosen for an ad, or why certain words and images are more powerful than others they can better analyze and resist the messages given in real media. A great resource for giving kids the experience of creating their own magazines, music and web pages is My Pop Studio.

So there you have it, Mamas. Go forth and empower!

The resources and tips in this post were complied from the presentation "Media Morality: How Media and Pop Culture Shape Adolescent Morality" by Carole Aksak, Critical Issues Coordinator, Girl Scouts of Nassau County, Garden City, NY, and Felicia Richardson-Battle, Author, Feel Good, Girl!, Glen Cove, NY.

A Wealth of Resources! Courtesy of Me & The Nassau County Girl Scouts!

It's that time of year again. Back-to-back holidays are sucking us dry, kids are wrapping up fall sports and moving on to holiday parties and concerts, family is travelling in and out of town. It's a friggin' circus around here!! So what better time to stress myself out even more by volunteering to once again be a presenter at the Long Island Counselors' Annual Conference. It was a great experience, but thank God it's over!

Needless to say, with everything going on, my poor blog is looking a little sparse. But thanks to the conference and my co-presenter, the amazing Carole Aksak of The Girl Scouts of Nassau County, I now have a wealth of smart-mama advice, tips and observations to share.

Carole is the director of GSNC Critical Issues Initiative . This unique program is constantly on the grind to counter the very same issues that get our panties in a bunch around here, like hyper-sexualized media that caters to kids. It was an incredible honor to present with her! She's a real pro when it comes to tackling these issues. And with the clout and resources of The Girl Scouts behind her, I'm just a happy-- albeit puny-- fish in a big sparkly pond.

Over the next week, I'll be sharing some of the issues we tackled in our presentation. I think you'll find some great stuff that can be applied in your own endeavors to raise smart and savvy girls in a culture that constantly tells them that their power lies in their looks and how well they can attract boys.

Feel free to comment and share your own tips and viewpoints as well. The more we share, the more powerful we become! And don't hesitate to apply our viewpoints to your own lesson plans or workshops. Just please do follow the universal, bloggy-code-of-conduct and give credit to Reign and also to the bylines following the posts.

On that note, stay tuned all this week for more.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Lesson in Media Contradictions

So I'm sitting here flipping through channels because amazingly, even with over 800 channels to choose from there is still absolutely NOTHING to watch. Anyhoo, I come across "Hustle & Flow." It's a scene where D (the pimp) has just pimped Nola (a prostitute) so he can get an expensive microphone. She's pissed and hurt. He made her feel like an object. She wants a better life beyond being a convenient cash machine.

The viewer is made to understand. Feel Nola's pain. She's human. She has hopes, dreams and feelings. It's wrong for her to be made into an object for the pleasure of others. It's a powerful moment.

Then this commercial comes on...

.... sigh
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